CLEVELAND -- Third-base coaches only get noticed when things go wrong, and Joel Skinner knows this as well as anyone. Skinner caught plenty of flack from Tribe fans when he held Kenny Lofton up at third, rather than waving him home with the potential tying run in Game 7 of the 2007 American League Championship Series at Fenway Park. The stakes were much, much lower when the fourth-place Tribe played host to the fifth-place Royals on Friday night at Progressive Field. But this time the Indians fell, 2-1, in 12 innings, in part because of Skinner's aggressiveness.
Twice, Skinner sent the potential winning run home after a Jhonny Peralta single to left. And twice, he was burned when left fielder David DeJesus threw a perfect strike to catcher Miguel Olivo, who wound up hitting the game-winning homer off Jose Veras in the 12th. "You're trying to win the game," Skinner said. "The first one, I was probably a little over-aggressive. And the second one was a nice strike to home plate. You've got to give them credit, too." Yes, give DeJesus and Olivo plenty of credit, because they had to team up in perfect harmony to make these impressive plays. "It's another first for me," Tribe manager Eric Wedge said. "I don't think I've ever seen the same guy get two potential game-winning hits and then the same guy throw out the runner both times. Stay hot." Wedge wasn't angry, and he defended both of Skinner's decisions. After all, Skinner was simply forcing the issue in a well-pitched game in which the runs were scarce. They figured to be scarce for the Tribe with Zack Greinke on the mound. He was, after all, the same guy who struck out 15 Indians batters in his last start against them on Aug. 25 in Kansas City. But Greinke didn't need to set a Royals record for strikeouts to be effective this time. He still changed speeds well and forced the Tribe into quick outs, going seven innings in which he allowed just a run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. "He obviously wasn't as good as he was last time," Wedge said of Greinke. "But still ... great stuff." Justin Masterson had pretty good stuff, as well. Masterson turned in one of his strongest starts since joining the Tribe in the Victor Martinez trade and transitioning from the bullpen. He went six innings in which he allowed just a run on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts. He was at his best in the fifth and sixth innings. "I was happy with all my changeups," Masterson said. "I thought the ball was moving well. I had a lot of close pitches that led to some walks, but you keep pounding the zone, and we got some double plays when we needed them." When the Indians finally got a run off Greinke in the seventh, it was a big one, because it erased their 1-0 deficit and got Masterson off the hook for the manufactured run he had allowed in the fourth. Shin-Soo Choo ripped a one-out triple off the left-field wall, and, with two out, Travis Hafner swatted a line-drive, RBI single to left to even the score. Tony Sipp and Chris Perez came out of the 'pen and held the Royals scoreless, and the Indians had a golden opportunity in the ninth, when Asdrubal Cabrera singled and Choo drew a one-out walk against Kyle Farnsworth. Peralta singled to left with a hit that could have loaded the bases, but Skinner waved Cabrera home, and Cabrera was easily gunned down on DeJesus' throw to all but kill the potential rally. Hafner struck out to end the inning. "I definitely gambled and got burned," Skinner said of that first play. "You kick yourself every once in a while. It just comes with my territory." Skinner would probably take back that decision, because it came with one out. His second big decision was more defensible, because it came with two out in the 11th inning. Michael Brantley and Choo were both aboard via walks issued by Jamey Wright, and Peralta was up with two outs. Peralta again singled to left, and Brantley was sent home. He was clearly going to be out at the plate, so he barreled into Olivo to try to jar the ball loose. Olivo held on for the out after another perfect throw from DeJesus. "It was do or die," DeJesus said. "I was told to play in. The first one was easy, the second one I kind of bobbled a bit." In the 12th, Veras, who had pitched a perfect 11th, had one out when he hung a breaking ball to Olivo, who crushed it into the left-field bleachers. Veras retired the next two batters, but the damage was done. "Veras threw the ball great," Wedge said. "He just hung a breaking ball, and the guy [didn't miss] it. [Other than that] he was as good as we've seen him." Why didn't we see closer Kerry Wood in the tie situation at home? Wedge said he had Wood warming in case the Indians took a lead in the eighth and needed to preserve it in the ninth, and he felt good about the arms used late. He said Wood is healthy. As for Skinner, he'd take back the first decision but not the second. And he offered praise for DeJesus on each. "You still have to give them credit when they make nice throws," Skinner said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.